The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is pleased to announce Carl Ostendarp: 189 Drawings, on view January 19 through March 23, 2003. Ostendarp's work engages the simplest visual forms and flatly applied colors to treat a complex assortment of subjects-including human relationships, art history, and popular culture-with his trademark humor. These gouache drawings reveal Ostendarp's working process and the inspiration for his more widely recognized large-scale paintings.
Cartoon-like in their visual directness, and sly in their art-historical references, Ostendarp's drawings are both funny and mysterious. Through a deceptively simple-looking set of forms, ranging from what appear to be feet, exclamation marks, and beans, combined with sophisticated choices in palette, the artist reduces ideas to their most essential and uncomplicated parts. Ostendarp's imagery may at first appear facile to read, but viewers find themselves engaged in a Rorschach test, where the artist's symbols ultimately lead each individual to a different end. Known for his tendency to use art-historical references, he inherited his sense of scale and flat fields of color from Barnett Newman and other abstract painters in the fifties and sixties.
The more intimate scale and spontaneous quality of the drawings delivers us closer to the artist's creative mind than his large-scale paintings on canvas. Despite their disarmingly simple composition, the works have a surprising amount of surface interest. The artist's use of toothy, serrated lines where areas of color meet, and the brushy, mottled way he sometimes applies paint, lend the works an emotional charge.
Ostendarp has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions in galleries across the U.S., Germany, and France. The work is in public collections across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.